SRINAGAR: Army has scaled down 25-day long operation against militants in Kupwara forests in Jammu and Kashmir after no fresh contact was established with the militants hiding in the woods.
“We have scaled down the operation against militants in Manigah forest area in border district of Kupwara,” an army official told Express.
Army men assisted by Special Operations Group (SOG) of J&K police and para commandos had launched a massive combing operation in Manigah forests on November 13 after receiving information that a group of heavily army militants was hiding there.
The operation entered 25th day today and is one of the longest operations against militants in the State.
In the 25-day long operation, Commanding Officer of 41 Rashtria Rifles Colonel Santosh Mahadik, who was leading the operation, was killed in the militant firing. A militant was also killed in an encounter while another militant of the same group was found dead in the forest area before start of the operation. Five army men including a Lt Colonel and a policeman have been injured in the ongoing operation.
13 villages falling in the Manigah forest area were sealed by the troops and the residents were not allowed to venture out.
“The restrictions have now been eased out and the population is being allowed to move out,” army official said.
He, however, said lifting of restrictions on the village does not mean that army has ended the operation. “The troops have zeroed-in on a particular area and combing operation is going on”.
The official said the number of the security men, who were participating in the operation, has been reduced by half.
He said the operation is very difficult and complex and the security men are moving very cautiously.
Sources said army and police have set up pickets in some villages to ensure that the militants don’t enter the hamlets.
The army has also been using choppers and UAVs to track down the movement of the militants. “In the 25-day operation so far, about four to five contacts were established with the militants. It means that the militants are still trapped in the deep forest,” they said.
Asked how militants have survived so long, the army official said it can be attributed to three reasons. “Either the militants were adequately stocked or had pre-stocked the food and ration in the hide-outs in the forest area or may be getting help from locals”.
“If the militants had pre-stocked the ration in hide-outs, then it means that they were already present in the area from long time, which is a cause of concern,” he said adding an investigation has been launched and all angles will be probed.
Militants attack CRPF convoy
Militants attacked paramilitary CRPF convoy along Srinagar-Jammu National Highway near Semthan village, Bijbehara in South Kashmir’s Anantnag district this morning
A CRPF officer said militants in army fatigues fired indiscriminately from automatic weapons towards a CRPF vehicle in the convoy.
“The fire was returned by the CRPF men and in the brief gunfight, seven CRPF men and a civilian were injured. They were hospitalized,” he said.
After the attack, security forces launched a search operation and closed down the highway for about an hour.
Pro-Pakistan militant outfit Hizbul Mujahideen has claimed responsibility of the attack while Lashkar-e-Toiba chief Mahmood Shah appreciated outfit’s Kashmir chief Abu Musa for attack on the CRPF convoy.